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Notable books

Notable Books | Four noteworthy novels reviewed by Susan Olasky

Deeper Water

Tammy Lynn Taylor, a University of Georgia law school student from a conservative Christian homeschooling family, faces personal and professional situations that challenge her understanding of her faith, her responsibilities to her parents and employer, and her tendency to jump to negative judgments about those who differ from her. Whitlow's skill shows in his nuanced portrayal of his protagonist.

Lawyer Robert Whitlow writes in the tradition of John Grisham, combining compelling legal and ethical plotlines with nuanced protagonists, but Whitlow has explicit spiritual themes. He writes stand-alone novels, each with different characters, but they share a Southeastern setting, legal themes, and recognition of the power of prayer.

Rain Song

Nicole Michelin, 31, an unmarried North Carolinian living near her eccentric grandmother and aunt, is a bundle of carefully hidden fears that show up in her chewed fingernails and fondness for pints of ice cream. We learn that her mother died when Nicole was a child in Japan and her father never talked about it, so all she has of her mother is a deformed kimono doll and a photograph-until she begins an email correspondence with a fellow fish-lover in Japan that opens up her past and helps her face her fears. One of the novel's charms is that Nicole is a quirky narrator who tells her story in the present tense, so we see the world through her idiosyncratic and sometimes scatter-brained perspective.

A Constant Heart

In this historical romance centered on the court of Queen Elizabeth I, the queen demands that her courtiers love only her and that their wives slavishly follow her fashion lead. Among the courtiers is the Earl of Lytham, who hopes that his young bride Margret's wealth will allow him to earn the queen's favor.

Since it's a romance, the story has hostility, awakening love, deception, misunderstanding, and near ruin-and in the end, reconciliation. It also has an interesting subplot focused on the beauty routines followed by Queen Elizabeth and the ladies in her court, and the ill effects of those routines on their health.

Wind River

Tyler Perkins, who grew up fly-fishing in the mountains of Wyoming, is now driving for UPS and trying to forget his experiences in Iraq. Withdrawn from his wife, he is withering inside until he returns to Wyoming to take a back-country trip with an old and elderly friend who wants to see and fish his old haunts once more before he dies. Surrounded by the beauty and majesty of the created world, both men deal with their need to face up to their past actions so as to be free of their curse.

The novel's descriptions are vivid: Tom Morrisey, an outdoor adventure writer, knows well his Wyoming landscape.

Spotlight

Paul David Tripp's Whiter Than Snow (Crossway, 2008) offers 52 meditations on Psalm 51, David's confession of sin after being confronted by Nathan the prophet. Phrase by phrase, Tripp responds to, enlarges upon, and applies the words of the psalm to himself and his readers, sometimes with poetry and sometimes prose-but always with a message of grace and reconciliation.

Both volumes of Eyes to See: a Collection of Enduring Stories that Challenge and Inspire, edited by Brett Lott (Thomas Nelson, 2008), contain short stories by writers both familiar and less so, including Flannery O'Connor, G.K. Chesterton, Mary Wilkins, and Gina Oschner. Lott chose pieces that grapple with great Christian truths: The stories "reveal the Truth that man is lost without his creator God, and that man is found through his encounter with Him."

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